Why is there a gap in Jules’s baby album? A wry and poignant coming-of-age novel about finding the truth in lies, salvaging hope in heartbreak, and making peace with missing pieces.
Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavors than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’s life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care. Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.
*I WAS SENT A PHYSICAL ARC IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW*
This book is definitely for fans of Contemporary. I just began to get back into this genre of books, and when I saw the synopsis for Paula Garner’s newest book, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
It took me longer to read this one because I wanted to pace myself. As the synopsis states, Jules ends up finding out about a foster family that she was placed in when she was still very young. This sets up the whole plot of the book after a few chapters in. Though, it isn’t until after she actually meets them when things started to get complicated.
My foster family. The term seemed ludicrous, something made-up. Where were they now? Did they ever think of me? Was I just one in a long stream of foster children? And what about the boy?
This quote actually made me feel for the main character. I’ve never been in foster care myself, so I wouldn’t know what it would feel like to know that you had been. This small part of the book gave me an insight into that wonder. Jules is clearly at a loss for how to think of this newly found information, and I find that to be completely believable. Garner really did a great job of implementing that into this book, and I applaud her for that.
I reminded myself that this person was a pseudo-brother, not a potential love interest—and to him I was certainly a sister figure.
This quote perfectly captured the meaning in the synopsis. What would you do if you were meeting someone who had been your “brother” over ten years ago for the first time, and he was a beautiful thing? I know I wouldn’t just be standing there thinking, ‘Oh, hey. That guy was my foster brother.’
Now, I know this might actually be weird or disgusting to some people, but you have to put it into her perspective. Jules was only months old when she went to the foster care, and she was barely two when she was taken back. She barely knows who this guy is, and she wouldn’t have known who he was, had it been up to her mother. Thinking this, there is an easy possibility that these two could have ended up together and have never known the actual truth of Jules’s past. Thinking along those terms, it’s understandable that she is going to have some sort of feelings for him.
Next, I want to quickly address something I really liked in this book. Jules’s best friend Eli happens to be a big part of the story. Now, you’d think that he wouldn’t be because she also has two girl best friends that take up most of the storyline as well, but then you’d be wrong. Eli is, from what I gathered, like a brother to Jules. She doesn’t come outright and say it, but you can make the connections here and there. My first impression of him was that he was kind of weird, and it takes a lot for me to think someone is weird. But I think it’s pretty weird to have two pet rats living in your house, so that did it for me.
Not only that, but the amount of LGBT+ rep in this book was pretty amazing. Jules is straight, this we can know for sure because of her preferences, but it will be later revealed in the book what I’m talking about when you all pick it up.
One last thing I would like to address is the last few chapters of the book. I’m normally not such a worry wart when I’m finishing up a book, but this really got me here. Toward the end of the middle of the book, my heart was ripped out of my chest TWICE. Then, I was really let down with the ending chapters. I would have accepted a little look into the future, like an epilogue for Jules or something like that. But instead, what we got was basically a summary set in three to four chapters. I felt like they didn’t really do anything but give us information and drag on and on, except one part between Jules and the foster brother that I can’t spoil.
Other than that, this book was pretty phenomenal. I loved the character development through all of the characters, and I loved that, for the most part, the book was smooth and easy to understand. I liked that Garner made it possible for us to relate to the main character in ways I didn’t think I, myself, would be able to, and I loved that she gave us insight on a subject that seems out of this world for a lot of people. For this, I give this book 4/5 stars.
I do suggest that you pick this book up and read it, especially now that it has been officially published and released to the world.
Paula Garner spends most of her time writing, reading, or making good things to eat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, was published in 2016 by Candlewick Press and is a 2017 Illinois Reads selection for grades 9-12. Paula lives in the Chicago area with her family and a very bad cat. Find out more about Paula and her books at www.paulagarner.com or follow her on Twitter at @paulajgarner.